On anniversary of key divorce law change charity fears couples miss vital help

A national family charity says desperate people going through family breakdowns are missing out on vital help because it is struggling to cope with a sharp rise in calls to its helpline since a key change in the law one year ago (22 April).

In the year since it became compulsory for separating couples to attend a mediation awareness meeting before they can apply for a court order, National Family Mediation (NFM) has gone from answering around 1,400 calls a month to well over 3,000. But in that time hundreds of calls have been missed because the charity, which receives no government funding, does not have enough staff to answer them all.

Jane Robey, the charity’s CEO, welcomes moves to encourage people to use family mediation, but says the government hasn’t put its money where its mouth is:

“The government changed the law to ensure divorcing couples seriously consider mediation, but didn’t think through the fallout,” she says. “They failed to provide funding to help address the inevitable impact on organisations like ours that are working hard to meet the increased demand.

“We hear lots about ‘joined up government’ but it must mean thinking through the consequences of policy change.

“As the only non-profit nationwide provider of family mediation, we have seen calls to our 0300 4000 636 helpline rise from around 1,200 a year ago, to well over 3,000 every month.

“Relationship support and counselling organisations get huge sums of government money. In the past 10 years one government department alone has awarded £44.7 million to just four such organisations. NFM works to help people who have decided to separate make settlements on property, finance and children, and receives no such government funding yet the families need support.”

“Although there are 120,000 divorces each year in this country, this is an issue that nobody is talking about at this election.”